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The Flowered Satsumas
( Article orginally published August 1962 )
Today, with emphasis on the arts in our Capital City, private collectors and dealers of the entire world may take heart. There will undoubtedly be greater world-wide sharing of cultural heritages. Who knows but that in time, the whole world will literally lay aside its swords and concentrate on peace,- culture and the harmonious life. Are we already at the threshold of a renaissance?
Even the jet age, with all that it connotes, may be a blessing in disguise, because it is bringing peoples together in the great common cause of art. The world has truly become smaller. We now travel to the Orient in a matter of a few hours, and glean in a few days what once took years by adventuresome Marco Polos.
I mention the Orient, because Oriental art has long been near my heart. The patience reflected in the work of the Orientals, plus great artistic ability, provide almost enough interest for one lifetime.
A favorite study of mine in recent years has been Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arrangement, an art that is 500 years old in Japan. Ikebana is at long last coming into its own throughout the world and is now an international society. Chicago has an active group of which I am a member. A recent gathering of the local group was honored with a lecture by Senei Ikenobo, the 45th descendant of the founder of the first Japanese Flower Arrangement School. Mr. Ikenobo is head of one of the most ancient temples in Kyoto. In 1956, he received his Master's degree in esthetics and literature from the Doshiska University.
As has so well been pointed out in Japanese flower arranging, "the aim is not in the `art,' but in the `heart,' not in the `hand,' but in the `head,' that is, not in the structure of arranged flowers, but in the culture of the mind."
My love of the Japanese flower arranging and other Oriental arts has lead to a greater appreciation of the Japanese faience, and more specifically Satsuma buttons. The term "Satsuma," relating to specific types of Japanese buttons, is credited to Maud Pastor, Ashland, Ohio, by the late button collector and historian, Grace Horney Ford.
Satsuma buttons have had many devotees, one of the most ardent having been Dr. Frank G. Finck of St. Louis, Mo. I consider it a great privilege that I have been able to obtain some of his buttons for my personal collection. Some of the flowered Satsumas tie in well with my study of Japanese flower arranging.
Where did Satsuma buttons originate? Some of us who own lovely specimens would like to think that they date back to the days of the Prince of Satsuma. The Prince had a great interest in the pottery arts. About 1595, he brought 17 potters from Korea to make use of the fine clay on Kyushi Island. But we must be realistic and honest with ourselves. The netsuke was the fastener in vogue in Japan at that time.
It is generally believed that Satsumas require a curved needle for sewing on, which some collectors feel indicate greater age than the shank type. Some of the specimens have markings on the back which I hope to get around to identifying in some ceramic book on "some long winter evening."
Flowers that predominate in flowered Satsumas are the peony, morning glory, iris, rose, chrysanthemum, azalia, lotus and jasmin. The colors are naturalistic. Button sizes are varied.
Why so many butterflies scattered among my Satsuma flower buttons? Wherever you find flowers, you'll always find butterflies whether in Japan or Timbuktu.